Praetorium Honoris

Friday, July 1, 2022

The Other Side of the Hill

Soviet rifle platoon on the march.
Efréĭtor¹ Ustin Rodionovich Kazankov looked across the bleak fields which stretched from their entrenchments out to a thin line of trees some five-hundred meters to the west. It was cold and rainy and his left foot ached, the result of loosing two toes to frostbite in Finland. He was still in the Red Army, not that anyone had asked if he'd like to get out, which he didn't, and he'd gained a promotion in the meantime.

Miraculously, the five men he had had with him near the end of the Winter War were still alive, still with him. A stray captain, one Ivan Filippovich Telitsyn, had led them to safety during the Hell of those last days. As they had gone forward, and not retreated as so many others had, the Party was pleased with Ivan Filippovich, he was now a major and in command of Kazankov's battalion. He had done well for himself and Kazankov's men. Didn't hurt that he was also a Party member.

Krasnoarmeyets² Vitaliy Afanasievich Kolobkov came out of the dugout to Kazankov's left rear, "Comrade Corporal, is there any of that vodka left?"

Kazankov shook his head, "We drank it all last night Vitaliy, the Comrade Commissar is paying us a visit today, wouldn't do to have strong drink around."

"Why? Are they concerned we might drink too much and let the Motherland down?"

"No Vitaliy, I'm concerned that the Comrade Commissar would steal it. Remember Grushanin?"

"The Comrade Major's orderly?"

"The very one, he knows where he can get some more of our national drink."


"My but you're impatient, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, I don't know, I just work here."

Kolobkov laughed, then sat on the edge of the trench, looking across the fields as Kazankov had been doing. "Are they out there?"


"The snow fairies ... You know who I mean, the damned Fascists."

"Our glorious Allies? The Germans, is that who you mean?"

Kolobkov laughed again, "Yes, those bastards."

"Ah Vitaliy, my friend and comrade-in-arms, I fear you don't have the right socialist attitude towards our brothers to the west." Kazankov hated the Germans almost as much as Kolobkov, but he enjoyed taunting his friend.

"Bah, you'll be an officer in no time, Ustin Rodionovich."

"And why is that?"

"You're a natural leader ..."

"Why thank you Comrade ..."

"And you're an overbearing asshole." Kolobkov said with a chuckle.

"You are such a bad socialist, I should report you to the Comrade Commissar!"

"You should, it might help us achieve true communism quicker."

Kazankov spat over the lip of the trench, towards German-occupied Poland, "Ha, I might make a good officer, but you would be a natural for Commissar!"

Kolobkov shook his head, "Never happen, I'm not smart enough to keep my mouth shut and parrot whatever the Party says."

"True, very true. Now go wake up the others, morning stand to in fifteen minutes."

"Da Tovarishch Efréĭtor, I serve the Soviet Union!" he barked while throwing Kazankov an exaggerated salute.

Kazankov shook his head, "Be careful Vitaliy, or you could end up in Siberia, counting trees. Or worse."

"Worse than this?" Kolobkov swept his arm around to encompass the bleak vista before them.

"Yes, much worse. Siberia makes Finland seem tropical."

Kolobkov grimaced, then turned on his heel. Looking over his shoulder he said, "In that case, I will behave, I will be a perfect socialist!"

When Kolobkov had disappeared back into the dugout, Kazankov shook his head, "That boy will be the death of me. Him or those Nazis across the way."

It began to rain again. Kazankov swore there was snow mixed in with the rain, he shivered.

It was early November, 1940.

¹ Corporal (Ефрéйтор, Russian)
² Private (Russian, literally "Red Army Man," Красноармеец, Russian)


  1. How nice to see the Rooskies again!

  2. Crusty Old TV Tech here. "Nucular combat, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies!", eh Badger?

    Ah, I appreciate the way your Muse has imagined the Soviet soldiery, concerned with things that are the concerns of GI's everywhere, starting with hooch! Humanizes them more. I have heard Airmen speaking in a similar fashion while on TDY, though not from a (literal) foxhole. Hooch, smokes, and, uh, know the rest...the universal concerns of most GI's.

  3. All those sorta things are nice and certainly "worth fighting for" but pretty soon a lot of those guys are gonna be wanting ammo, artillery support and dry socks (though I did read once soviet soldiers didn't wear socks, but some kinda wrapping around their feet). T'any rate; priorities do and I expect will change for these guys, and probably soon.
    Boat Guy

    1. Russians wore foot wraps until fairly recently, I read they were phasing them out by 2013, not sure how that went. They're called portyanka. (Singular portyanki.)

    2. Had no idea they were still wrapping their feet. Wonder what, if any, advantage there is to doing that?

    3. None that I'm aware of other than ease of manufacture. One size fits all, cotton in summer, wool in winter, no need for different sizes. If you don't put them on right though, you tear your feet to shreds!

  4. Once again Sarge, emphasizing the shared humanity of most of us. Good heavens, eliminate governments and ideologues and imagine what we could do!

    (If you ever want to read a very good biographical work on Siberian exile, read Dostoevsky's The House of the Dead. It is based on his experiences in a Siberian Prison Camp)

    1. I read the Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn, that's as close as I ever want to get to that particular topic again!

  5. I'm back to reading this serial first thing when I start on the blogs... (the comics are first :-)

  6. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Sorry for not commenting in so long, but I have been reading, but very busy. Good to see the Ruskies back, and yes they had to be careful that the commissar's don't overhear them and "Counting Trees" was a real fear, or getting sent to a penal battalion for not showing the proper communist spirit. And yes the Comics are first, LOL

    1. It must have sucked to have been a Russian grunt in WWII. Not sure that it doesn't suck now!

    2. Not at all sure exactly what the nationality has to do with it. I suspect that if there is a Universal Truth beside 'Christ is Lord', it is that 'It sucks to be a grunt.'



Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.